Few things are more dangerous in a man than a persecution complex. John Fowkes, 45, known to his friends as “Butcher” Fowkes, believed that several members of his family were against him, and he made up his mind to get them before they got him.

Butcher believed that his principal enemy was his nephew, also called John Fowkes and known to everyone as “Acres.”

“He’s up to all sorts of nasty tricks,” Butcher told his brother, the father of Acres. “He’s stealing your money and he’s trying to poison you as well.”

Butcher’s venom was not just confined to Acres. In the complex weave of the Fowkes’ family, he had it in for his own brother, as well as for Acres’s brother, a young man named William. He was vehemently hostile to his own father, too, believing that the old man had cut him out of his will.

The Fowkes family lived at Snarestone, Leicestershire, and were regulars at their local pub, The Square and Compass. Here, on a night in early January, 1856, some of them gathered for a drinking session. Butcher was among them and that night he was seething with resentment against the whole family as usual. At closing time he was seen walking towards his father’s house, armed with a poacher’s gun. When the old man went to his bedroom window to open the shutters, a shot rang out.

There was no doubt that Butcher was trying to kill his father that night. But he missed – and instead his bullet hit his nephew Acres, who died from his wound four days later.

John “Butcher” Fowkes’s life of resentment against almost everyone in his life was ended on the gallows on Wednesday, March 19th, 1856, when he became the last man to be publicly hanged at Leicester Prison.